What is networking all about?

As we enter our seventh month of not being able to network face-to-face I have started to see many cases of ‘Zoom fatigue’. (Other systems are available and have the same challenge). Often the numbers of people attending have reduced and people have become more comfortable with the system. (Strangely, our Groups reduced and have now started to grow again as parents see their children back at school.)

So, since the government guidelines are not looking like we will be able to come face-to-face again any time soon, I thought it would be helpful to remind myself why I network. I hope this helps you too.

Networking is a huge part of my marketing strategy. It enables me to meet other businesspeople, build strong relationships and from this I gain: advice, information, support and, of course, work. The latter will almost always take a while to happen, so let’s explore the first three things:

Advice

No one has experienced the situation we have all faced this year, but what I realised is that many of the challenges some have faced are the challenges that come from owning a business: cashflow, getting work, completing work, getting paid etc.  In addition, there is a whole raft of never-before-experienced challenges:  furloughing staff, preparing for people to work from home, preparing for people to work in the office. However, both these sets of challenges are helped by people offering advice, usually from their own experiences. This happens whether face-to-face across a table or face-to-face across a screen. When networking you meet people you can trust who will offer advice. You then decide whether to take it.

Information

This is, of course, closely linked to advice. The difference is that information usually comes from people’s area of expertise.  For example, you may want to wade through the intricacies of furloughing staff and the HMRC, I do not. I get information from my accountant and sometimes, while networking, I get the latest, ‘hot off the press’ information from an accountant who is attending. (When I finish networking I usually find this information from my accountant in my inbox but that is by the by.)

Support

There are times for many businesspeople when things don’t go well or as planned, don’t get started, or seem never to end. Self-employment in its different disguises can be a lonely place and through networking we can gain contacts who will listen (occasionally) to our rants, our troubles, our whinges. They may offer advice and information but what they really will offer is their attention. Naturally we have to remember that this should not be every day!

These times have been for some, psychologically and practically, difficult times. Members tell me they have really appreciated the support they have received, now more than ever. Because we work using the Chatham House rule they feel able to be completely honest and this has always been helpful.

If you would like to see my blog on networking, here’s the link: https://www.ebn.uk.com/blog/?p=37

And if you would like my top 20 networking tips, go to: https://www.ebn.uk.com and claim your free download

Have fun.

The 3/3/3 rule

When talking to people about my system of networking I am often asked “How do you manage a room full of people” This can be daunting, even for the most confident or experienced networkers. My advice is: First gather your thoughts and your positive attitude before you walk in, just before you get out of the car is a good time and place, walk in with a smile, don’t overdo it or you’ll look scary, and have a plan. My plan is I follow my 3/3/3 rule:

Category 1. Talk to three people you know really well but don’t stay with them, which is always tempting. Long day, long week, stress at work; you could stay in your comfort zone. Don’t do it. If needs be arrange a 1-2-1 with them and then move on. You might want to ask people you meet the question “Who (what type of company) are you looking for?” If you have already met someone who matches the description, you can make the introduction. If not, look out for them as you continue to network. Also ask people “Is there anyone you have met here that you think I should meet?” if the answer is Yes get them to introduce you.

Category 2. Talk to three people that you may have only met once or twice. This enables you to develop the business relationship further. Arrange a 1-2-1. Call it ‘having a coffee’ if 1-2-1 sound too formal. Stay with them longer than people in category 1 because the relationship is not yet as strong and needs to be developed. Move on, but before you do, go through the part in italics of category 1 above.

Category 3. Talk to three people you have never met before. This can be a bit scary, but you are all there to network and they may be relieved to not have to approach someone they don’t know. If you really can’t do this, talk to the organiser. Make sure they know what you do and ask them to introduce you to someone with whom there might be synergy, so you can work together. Stay even longer with them than either of the people in category 1 or 2 because the business relationship is just starting. But do move on and before you do, go through the part in italics of category 1 above.

Recently I was told my 3/3/3 rule was the thing that had helped the person I was talking to the most. When I told them that this was something I had devised I received profuse thanks and another business relationship was made stronger. When typing that last sentence, I suddenly thought, “Did someone tell it me and I have forgotten?”, so I Googled it (other search engines are available) and came up with stuff about routing cables, so I’m still pretty sure it came from my brain. I am sure people will let me know if I am wrong.

So I offer you my 3/3/3 rule. Once you have met and talked to nine people you can, if you wish go, back to your office…or you could go round again.

If you want more networking tips go to: https://blog.ebn.uk.com/tips-on-networking.html

Have fun.

Would you do that if we were meeting face to face?

Warning: This may border on the edge of a rant:

I was talking to someone about a meeting they had attended, where he was the presenter. He was very unhappy because, while he was doing his presentation, some people put their contact details in the chat facility. (Yes it was Zoom and yes, other options are available.)

We talked for a while about strange behaviour we had seen in virtual meetings, e.g. people messing around with their backdrops, or taking phone calls. These were certainly unacceptable, but my friend was really annoyed with the people who had been obviously typing rather than listening to his presentation. As he said “ I would never introduce these people to my contacts because they obviously don’t understand what professional looks like”.

So, I started to think about how this behaviour differs from when we attend a face­­-to-face networking event (remember those?) People judge us by our behaviour and, for businesspeople in particular, we need to show ourselves in the best light. This ensures that people feel confident at putting their own reputation on the line by introducing us to their contacts.  Finally, I came up with a simple rule: you shouldn’t do anything at a virtual meeting that you wouldn’t do at a face to face meeting. Simple.

Or is this just me? What do you think?

Want a free gift? Go to ebn.uk.com and download 20 networking tips. You’re welcome.

Once upon a time…

In the last week I have been asked the same question three times: How do I tell people about all my different services when I first meet them? My answer was the same: don’t.

Many companies have a business category, e.g. IT support, but this is made up of lots of products and services: hardware, security, etc. Tell people all that and you will see them glaze over and stop engaging with you. Don’t forget that networking is about building relationships, not overwhelming people to the point when they switch off.

My advice? There are two parts to this.

The first part is to tell people what your business category is. (Assuming you have said your name and company name.) Then you can say “We have lots of products and services”. You can, if you want, say “For example” and list two or three of the services, followed by “Today I’m focussing on helping people who need to have their cyber security reviewed”.

The second part: tell them a story. Think half a page, not War and Peace. As humans, we understand stories. Give it a beginning, a middle and an end. For example, “Cyber security is getting to be more and more of a problem”, throw in some stats if you must, and then “Recently we helped a firm of solicitors who had lost £250,000 because someone hacked …”.  (This is not my area of expertise, so bear with me.) “We were asked to look at all of their systems and we found 5 ways of ensuring this kind of attack could not happen again, and we also put in place a system that will constantly keep the company protected.” ” So…this is the kind of help we want to give to others—do you know any solicitors who you would feel able to introduce me to?”

Then shut up and let them talk. One final thing: if you see people snuggling down for the night, you have spoken for too long. Refine the story.

If you would like some more tips on networking, go to ebn.uk.com and at the bottom right hand side you can download my top twenty tips.

Being hit with a two-by-four

As I write this it is four months since England when into lockdown. On that day two things happened to me:

  1. On paper, my business stopped. ebn is a business networking company, we meet face-to-face, over breakfast. For a few weeks before lockdown things had been decidedly different: members not sure what would happen with their business, what they needed to do, would they survive and how could they protect and support their staff. Then on 23rd there was some clarity, at least for me. On a business level I couldn’t continue my existing business model. It justwasn’t an option, that was very clear.
  2. I was told, very emphatically, that I was classed as vulnerable and must not go out of the house for any reason other than my regular fourweekly hospital appointments.

Maybe if one of these issues had happened in isolation I might have coped better, as it was I felt like the twobyfour had been applied. (Not that I know what it actually feels like to be hit with a twobyfour, but I have an active imagination!)

So, what happened? My network immediately kicked in; my fabulous team of Group Directors, all business owners themselves, took their groups online and this gave me some space to get to grips with all aspects of ‘being vulnerable’, from the psychological impact of that, to the practical.

My beloved, who is high risk, decided, to keep me as safe as he could by also not going out. We, therefore, had to work out how could we get things like food, medicines, and other frivolities.  The next-door neighbour became our short-term lifeline and then three people from my business network volunteered to shop for me. (Any of you who are thinking: what about home deliveries?” are delusional. I never managed to get the golden ticket, or as some people called it, a delivery slot.)

Since 23rd of March four things have happened:

  • ebn has grown as people came to virtual meetings as visitors, got help, advice, and support from my wonderful members. Business people have come together and supported each other. It has not just been about how they are coping but how their businesses are doing.
  • I have realised that, if nothing is normal then, for my business everything is possible. So, I am reviewing my business model. This includes how and where we open groups and when and how we develop additional products, which would be available to members and non-members
  • I have realised that ‘vulnerable’ is a label that others apply to me
  • My long-held belief has been proven; networking works.

Since networking is about building relationships, please accept my gift of Top 20 networking tips by following this link: ebn.uk.com and complete the form to download your copy.

Networking should be scary

Last week I made my first virtual presentation. I am really used to giving presentations and I see nerves as part of the process. It’s the body’s physical reaction (fight or flight) and chemical reaction (the release of stress hormones, particularly adrenaline and cortisol) to new activities, which I accept. So, scary is good, because it keeps us alert and proves we’re still alive!

Once the thunderous applause had died down, I’d been showered with virtual flowers and virtually paraded, shoulder high, round the town, there was a Q and A session. I was asked what my top three tips for nervous networkers were. Now that’s a whole different presentation, so I gave a quick list, but realised this was something that I could share on a blog.

For the purposes of this blog I am going to assume you have prepared for your networking meeting before you walk through the door or turn on your computer. (You can download networking tips here)

Tip number 1:

Accept that networking can be nerve–racking. Remember others may be just as nervous, so accept that nerves are part of the process. Most people are nervous when they are new to any activity and for some people each networking event is as nerves-inducing as the last.

Accept this and accept that you are amongst friends, even if you don’t know them yet. No one wants you to fail.

Tip number 2

Keep it brief. One thing that will turn friends into less happy friends is if you pin them verbally against a wall and spew your entire product range at them. Practise introducing yourself before the event. I would suggest:

  • Your name (see my blog for reasons why you should wear a namebadge, or in the virtual world, put your name and company name on the screen)
  • Your company name
  • Then ask ‘What do you do? ‘

Then shut up and let them talk!

Tip number 3

Get a business card if it’s a face-to-face meeting. If you are networking virtually copy the chat feed and/or jot down their name and business name. Then, after the meeting, connect with them by email, social media or LinkedIn. Ask how you can help them. Would they like a 1-2-1? Would they like some more information? Obtain feedback on how you did. Remember, this is about building relationships and not selling.

So, three tips for people new to networking, which might also be helpful to people who are already networking and who might want to review how they are doing.

Feedback on this, or any of my blogs is always welcome.

If you want more handy tips on networking download my top 20 tips, and you may want to read some of my blog posts.

How do I choose which networking to attend?

Recently, I was talking to a new member about other networking that was available. He was surprised that I would recommend other networking events, so I explained my theory for a robust networking strategy.

He asked, “How do I know if they are right for me?”

I work on a questioning process:

Do the times of the event work for you?

Do you do work or hope to do work in the area the event is held?

The next part of the assessment happens when you attend the event: How do you feel? I’m a great believer in gut reaction; I think that this reaction is based on our brain drawing from previous experience and comparing it with the current situation. The fact that this process is made in nanoseconds makes people doubt it. My advice? Don’t ignore your gut.

Now you have attended an event and your gut is happy, time for your brain to take over. Consider if you like the format; some people like structure, some don’t. But if you are attending a variety of events, you will experience different structures. Your next thing to think about: are there people in attendance from businesses which have synergy with your business? Talk to them. Then are there people you like the look of? This is not a dating event, but when I attend an event I am attracted to people who are dressed professionally and look interested in being there. I think they are people I would find it easier to work with and get work for.

If you don’t like an event, ask yourself why. Use your brain to analyse why you didn’t like it. If it was the people, don’t attend for a few months and then try again; you’ll almost certainly find new people attending. If there is a committee that leads the event, it might have changed – the organiser may have moved on. Don’t just give up after one attendance. If you don’t like the format, work out how you can make the most of your time there, within the format.

And remember to have fun.

Want my top 20 networking tips? Sign up here.

5 steps to reputation marketing success

The ebn network is full of people who know their ‘stuff’.  To add value, I’m asking a few willing victims volunteers to share some of their wisdom.  The first – er – volunteer is Lesley Morrissey of Inside News.  Asking her was a no-brainer – she’s a writer, so writing a blog was like falling off a (b)log – and she’s given me tons of useful advice about her area of expertise.  Read and enjoy!  Glenys

Over the years many of my clients have come to me for a specific job – like writing a website or managing their Twitter account – but, when asked, they can’t tell me who I’m writing for.

I get on my soapbox about knowing your ideal client – a lot – so here are my 5 steps that I think EVERY business owner should work through and revisit regularly.

  1. Who do you want as clients/customers?

This needs to be as specific as possible.  So it’s no good saying ‘accountants’, because there are big, multi-practice accountants, smaller practices with a handful of staff, specialists in taxation, one-man (or woman) bands who work from home – and that’s just a few.  Which one is your perfect client – because they’re all different, with different issues, worries, problems and needs?

  • Why you?

What have you got to offer that’s different or better than your competitors?  What makes you unique?  What issues can you resolve for your ideal client?  What do your current clients rave about?  Don’t guess – ask them.  What are the measurable benefits of what you do?

  • Where are your prospects hanging out?

A blanket approach to marketing probably isn’t going to work, so you need to think about where your target market are active.  Are they on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube?  What groups do they contribute to?  What publications do they read?  Which networking groups do they attend?

  • Develop your strategy

Get your brand and identity sorted.  That means your logo, strapline, font styles, colour references, headshot, banners, etc.  If you don’t have a brand guide – you should – and make sure everyone in your organisation uses it properly.

What activities will you engage in to establish a top flight reputation in your industry?  Blogging, social media (which ones?), List building, lead magnets, newsletters, email campaigns, direct mail, advertising, networking (where), etc.?

  • Means, manpower and measurement

Who does what, how often, where and how?  How will you check progress?  What are your measurement parameters?  How much time needs to be invested – daily, weekly, monthly?  Who is responsible for managing the project?  Who else will be involved?  How often will you review and revise the plan?

This is the basic steps of a good reputation marketing plan – and the first three steps are important not only for marketing but will make a positive impact on the whole business plan. 

Lesley Morrissey is a copywriter, consultant, and reputation marketing expert.  Raid her Treasure Chest at www.insidenews.co.uk.

How to make online networking work

Well, aren’t we living in interesting times? People keep talking about the new normal: have we reached it, is this just a different normal, will our old normal return? It’s disquieting and perhaps even a little exciting. Nothing is as it was and many of us are having to rethink our businesses.

My business is networking, this was always a massive part of my marketing plan whatever business I have owned and now it is the thing I do.

I have always had a networking strategy, part of the larger marketing strategy: a set of rules, things to do, how to do things and when. Networking has always involved face-to-face meetings, often including a coffee and a sticky bun, and now this method is on hold. If you want to see that strategy go to:  https://www.ebn.uk.com/blog/?p=26

Rather than look at what I used to do I sat down and looked at the new rules, how do we adapt to this different world of networking?

These are my takes on the original rules – and what today’s version is:

  1. Wear a name badge so people don’t have to try and remember these details rather than concentrating on what you are saying.  Now: Put your name on the screen, and your business name, if space is available (TIP: if you have a pop up banner, place it behind you.)
  2. Turn up on time, That hasn’t changed…and you can’t blame traffic!
  3. Arrange 1-2-1s,  The only difference is you each provide your own drink and sticky bun.
  4. Show respect to the meeting…don’t mess around! No dogs on desks, don’t keep changing your background, don’t take telephone calls (and if you have to, then mute yourself) This is still a business meeting.
  5. Dress appropriately…even if it’s only from the waist up.
  6. Agree to use of your business details.  Instead of exchanging business cards, connect on Linkedin (although you should do that anyway).
  7. Allow others to talk.  If you can’t resist, mute yourself.

One thing that will never change is the need to work together to grow all our businesses. More information about mine is at: ebn.uk.com and it include networking tips to sign up for Let me know if I can help you or your business in any way.

Virtually surround yourself with positive people.

These are challenging times for everyone, whether you own a business, work for someone, are self-isolating or because you are worrying about you, yours, or your community. The COVID-19 virus  is undermining our society at a very basic level, and there are many of us who face a very real risk.

One of my rules for life is to surround myself with positive people. I find they help me with the various challenges, be they personal or with my business. My initial thought when the ban of meetings was announced was “Aaarrrgghh!” My business is all based on face-to-face meetings and it won’t come as any surprise when I say that I fundamentally believe in meeting people face-to-face.

However, I was amazed at the positive reaction I received from members when we made all our meetings virtual.  This is a temporary measure, and we will return to the old format when all this malarkey is over, but for now we meet using Zoom (other systems are available) each sat in our homes and offices. Looking smart—at least from the waist up—and sharing support, knowledge and information. In fact, all the things that we gain at our usual meetings. But this way we stay safe and well and in touch with other businesses. Since we work under the Chatham House rule (what is said at a meeting can be told to others, but not who said it) and those people who are still choosing to visit can talk about their concerns. At the meetings I have attended in the past week people have also, I have noticed, shared personal concerns as well as business concerns.

I have also noticed that some, after the initial aaarrggghh moment, day or few days, have started to look at other options for doing what they already do, or at how they might do things completely differently, and some have already given up. Now, before anyone takes offence at that last sentence let me say that I know that some businesses will not survive. However, my belief is that if you try, desperately sometimes, to find the positive, however small that is, that helps. It also helps if the people around me are looking for the small positive too. It also means that when we each reach that aarrgghh moment again the positive people around are supportive and helpful and when it is their turn I can reciprocate.

I hope you and yours are safe and well. If I can help in any way let me know how and, if you want more information, or some more networking tips, have a look at my website: ebn.uk.com.